Album Review : Z – Visions of Dune

I have not made it a secret that I love analog synth music. Those warm, bubbling tones that permeate the air in visual greens and blues get me every time. The desolation they put my headspace in takes me to my childhood and those late nights staying up watching something I shouldn’t that I’d rented at Video World. Analog synths scored so many of the movies I grew up on; in-particular the horror and sci-fi flicks that followed and haunted me into adulthood. I think I’ve always loved the sound of analog synthesizers, but that love wasn’t reawakened until last year when the Boards of Canada vinyl reissues appeared courtesy of Warp Records. Once I’d started collecting those albums, that’s when all those feelings came back to me. I absolutely adore everyone one of their albums, but Geogaddi and Twoism in-particular hit some specific chords in my brain. I have since obsessed over the entire Boards of Canada canon and play them on a regular rotation.

For me, the analog synthesizer is a much more emoting and melancholy instrument than most others. I think it’s the fact that it’s such a desolate and lonely instrument. One person sitting behind a stack of keys with knobs, wires, faders, and buzzing machines creating these worlds all on their own. I liken it to a writer of science fiction sitting in a dark room, only lit by the light of a desk lamp as blue smoke slowly rises from an unfiltered cigarette that lays burning in an ashtray next to the typewriter. Within the paper before the red-eyed author is an amazing world filled with chromed-out buildings, rogue private dicks, neon lights, and strange creatures. All of this created by one man inside a lonely room with a bottle of something wet and brown in the desk drawer next to him.

Well, we are finally in the fall season. My favorite season. It’s a season that should be soundtracked by analog synths. Those dark, gray, overcast skies and brisk autumn breezes yearn for Moogs, modulation, and oscillation. It seems over the last few weeks that I’ve found some absolute gems in the old school synth department. Sinoia Caves’ Beyond The Black Rainbow, as well as his debut The Enchanter Persuaded are stunning works. Rudiger Lorenz’ Invisible Voices is a lost synth classic from 1983, with a sound that harkens back to Terry Riley’s A Rainbow In Curved Air, had that been recorded by Kraftwerk. All of these hint at the masterwork of John Carpenter and Tangerine Dream. I can add Z(aka Bernard Szajner) to the list of absolute gems.

I recently procured a copy of his 1979 analog synth classic Visions of Dune. This album was inspired by the Frank Herbert novel and listening to the sonic landscape of this record I can completely get that inspiration. The fact that this album existed five years prior to the David Lynch film adaptation of the book, I’m not sure why they went with Toto rather than this great album. I guess in the scheme of things this probably worked out better for Szajner, as he definitely would’ve been more well known having his music scoring a major science fiction film. But for all the wrong reasons as the film was an absolute mess. Anyways, Visions of Dune is a wonderful album. It moves from serene moments to darkness and tension. There’s a few tracks that contain drums(programmed or live, I’m not sure), and those tracks crackle and spark with some honest to Jebus heavy grooves. “Fremen” is like a heavy space funk track, much like Denmark’s Jakob Skott and his excellent Amor Fati album. “Bashar” is short but sweet with some great flanged snare as you feel like you’re falling down a worm hole. “Bashar” melts into “Thufir Hawat” and “Sardaukar” which then leads into the excellent “Bene Gesserit”, a seven minute track that owes as much to Edgar Froese as it does Frank Herbert.

I haven’t mentioned this yet, but you really must enjoy this record on some nice headphones. Not earbuds, kids. Headphones. Preferably some old school Koss that make you look like Princess Leia in Star Wars, but anything that will cover a good portion of your ears. The stereo panning and left-to-right movement is an aural smorgasbord on this album. “Ibad” moves from left to right oscillation, making you feel like your floating in space. There’s some heavily flanged vocals that sound like Trans Europe Express-era Kraftwerk. This album pops and crackles with artificial, tube-driven life.

I’ve geeked out enough. If you’re a fan of late night sci fi, Tangerine Dream, Philip K. Dick, and the absurdity of our existence in general, then I suggest you seek this album out. If your’e vinyl guy or gal, grab the vinyl version. It’s a beautifully repressed version on 180 gram vinyl(more geeking out, sorry.) I’m now a fan of Bernard Szajner. You will be, too.

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